Public utilities too important and dangerous to be private; failure of elites fuels Tea Party…

September 18, 2010

It’s been a frustrating several days for me, what with my computer acting up (my own near computer illiteracy adding to this problem) and having to work at my day (and night) job driving an over-the-road big rig and all this news happening all the while:

 –The terrible and deadly natural gas line explosion in San Bruno, Ca. and the rise of the Tea Party and what it means to the Republican Party and one pundit’s prediction Sarah Palin is the  likely 2012 GOP presidential candidate (or possibly VP again) and the continuing controversy on the economy and on whose taxes to raise or cut and how to pay off the national debt and whether added indebtedness is the way to cure our nation’s economic malaise.

On that last one, some think the federal government has to prime the pump, even if it means spending more revenue than the government takes in, thereby requiring it to borrow money from China.

(If we eventually went to war with China would we have to borrow money from that country to fund the war? I always think about the time I read that Krupp Steel of Germany produced bullets for Great Britain in World War I, a nation it was fighting — well business is business (don’t really know if that story is true). It has been reported that much of the U.S.-supplied armament sent to the Middle East has been used against our own troops.)

Time will tell, we hope, what the real cause of the gas line failure in San Bruno was. But it appears at the very least the ruptured line was way too old. It was as old as me, I have read. I was born in 1949, just north in San Francisco. My family moved away when I was nearly four, but we often took trips back to the city. I recall my folks remarking about how housing subdivisions were expanding all over the hills on the peninsula. I guess that doomed neighborhood in San Bruno was one of them.

There are also disturbing reports that PG&E, the privately-run public utility that so many love to hate (who likes getting ever-escalating power bills?), got permission from the California Public Utilities Commission on more than one occasion to raise rates enough to cover the costs of fixing old gas lines, to include the one in question, but deferred work instead. No word yet on where the money went.

I personally think utilities are so important and in this case so dangerous they should be publicly run and administered by those skilled more in the technical aspects of utilities and safety rather than corporate bottom-line next quarter profits over investing in maintenance and safety types.

And as one radio talk show caller asked: why does PG&E use some of its rate payer dollars to advertise — it’s the only game in town in the areas that it serves. Also, as the caller, I think, pointed out, it is  ludicrous that rate payers must subsidize PG&E’s lobbying efforts which are not usually in the ratepayers’ interests.


I’m wondering if the Tea Party may wind up being just another loud but ultimately ineffective splinter group or third-party populist group. Those who study  U.S. politics usually conclude that third parties have little to no chance. The structure of our federal form of government and the fact we don’t have a parliamentary system gives us room for only two major political parties.

I still remember Ross Perot, even though I’d rather forget him.

While the Tea Party stars do not impress me, except for the fact they could  be dangerous if given real power, one of the reasons they have been so successful is that the conventional political intelligentsia has failed miserably in its leadership.  Tea Party activists have found that they can gain much traction by railing against established elites.

Personally I think we need elites. But these elites need to remember their responsibility to the country. If they fail we will be left with half-baked Alaskan beauty queens and their ilk.